Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday that he won’t run for the U.S. Senate, removing a potential challenge to Democratic incumbent Chris Van Hollen that national Republicans believed could have helped them secure control of the Senate in the November elections.
“When I pledged to the people of Maryland that I was going to give this job as governor everything I’ve got every single day that I’m given, I meant it,” the governor said during a news conference at the State House in Annapolis. “And that commitment is far more important to me than any political campaign.”
The second-term governor’s decision was a setback in the GOP’s fight to seize the Senate majority this fall. The Senate is deadlocked 50-50, but Democrats control the chamber because Vice President Kamala Harris is the tie-breaking vote.
There are 34 Senate seats up this November, but fewer than a dozen are considered competitive. Republicans need a net gain of just one seat to flip the chamber from blue to red.
Given his popularity in Maryland, the 65-year-old Hogan, a critic of former GOP President Donald Trump, instantly would have become a legitimate contender against Van Hollen, even in a state Trump lost by 32 percentage points in 2020.
“I sincerely appreciate the people who have been encouraging me to consider it,” Hogan said. “A number of people said they thought I could make a difference in the Senate as a voice for common sense and moderation. I was humbled by that, and it certainly gave me and my family reason to consider it but, as I have repeatedly said, I don’t aspire to be a senator and that fact has not changed.”
Van Hollen’s Senate office referred a request for comment to his reelection campaign.
“As we have said time and again, Senator Van Hollen is ready to go up against whoever [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell recruits,” said campaign spokesman Keith Presley in a statement.
Hogan has not ruled out a presidential run in 2024. He flirted with a presidential bid in the 2020 race but decided instead to start a national nonprofit advocacy organization called An America United.
“In January of 2023, I’ll have plenty of time to think about what the future holds,” he said Tuesday. “I think the world’s going to be a different place a year from now.”
A Senate candidacy could have had a downside if Hogan wants to later run for president.
“The loss is the obvious risk,” said Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Center for Politics at Goucher College.
She said forgoing the Senate contest also could allow him to spend time directly enhancing his national profile so he can raise money and win votes on a larger scale.
“He doesn’t need to build name recognition in Maryland. He needs name recognition in New Hampshire or Iowa,” Kromer said. “It’s also about building networks with national donors.”
There was no immediate reaction from the Republican National Committee about Hogan’s Senate decision.
An aide to McConnell referred questions to political strategist John Ashbrook, a former McConnell aide, who did not return messages.
GOP efforts to recruit the governor included McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, who held Cabinet positions in the administrations of presidents Donald Trump and George W. Bush. She encouraged a Senate bid during a private lunch with Hogan’s wife, Yumi Hogan, at Government House in Annapolis, which Hogan briefly attended.
A handful of senators, including Susan Collins of Maine, reached out to Hogan to encourage him to run.
There are no other high-profile Republican contenders in Maryland’s Senate contest; Hogan said Tuesday that he would have won the seat if he’d run. The filing deadline is Feb. 22.
“Few believed Hogan would run for the Senate, so this is not a big surprise,” said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
Maryland Policy & Politics
“Had Hogan run, though, it would have created a competitive race” Sabato said. “National Republicans would have been delighted, since Maryland would otherwise have been seen as safe for the incumbent. Van Hollen is now strongly favored to hold the seat.”
After Hogan’s announcement, state Democrats took a political swipe at the governor.
“Our focus remains on getting Democrats elected, not Gov. Hogan’s future endeavors,” said Eva Lewis, the Maryland Democratic Party executive director, in a statement. “However, we do hope that now he will find more time in his schedule of appearing on cable news shows to do his job.”
Hogan said he had notified McConnell and Van Hollen of his decision.
Hogan has just under one year left in his final four-year term as governor. Due to term limits, he cannot run again for governor.
Van Hollen, 63, was elected in 2016 to the Senate, replacing Democrat Barbara Mikulski of Baltimore, who was retiring. The Montgomery County resident served before that in the U.S. House of Representatives, the state Senate and the House of Delegates.
Baltimore Sun reporter Meredith Cohn and The Associated Press contributed to this article.